Is ‘frankengrain’ my nemesis?

In February of this year the Food and Drug Administration, FDA, announced it was extending for 60 days (until April 26) the comment period in regard to their decision to approve AquaBounty’s genetically modified salmon for sale to the public. I will be voicing my disapproval to that decision. Here’s why.

I was born and raised on a southeast Iowa farm. By the time I was in Future Farmers of America (FFA), in junior high, I had considerable knowledge about farming even though my principal interest was mechanical. There’s something about watching a golden stream of corn pouring from a grain hopper auger that still appeals to me. Some of my friends worked for Holden’s, a company in the neighboring community of Williamsburg, that developed parent seed stock from which hybrids are grown. Jon Kinzenbaw (now Kinze Manufacturing) was an emerging farm implement manufacturer in that same area. John Deere was in Waterloo, Iowa, International in the Quad Cities. One of the earliest corn sweetener plants I can remember was only 45 miles away in Cedar Rapids. In a sense, I was immersed in not only the culture that planted and harvested corn, but also in the culture that was researching and developing farm implements, seed stock and the use of corn as a food source.

In the summer of 1983, I traveled to Alaska and grew to greatly appreciate the Homer community. In 1987, my wife, Laura, and I moved here to stay.

In the early to mid 1990s, I began to hear about efforts to improve soybean seed stock through genetic modifications. I wasn’t thrilled with what I was hearing and reading but my previous experience with seed corn naturally left a wide margin around research and development of foundational seed so I was caught in the middle of the issue. I didn’t know what to think. In fairness though, few knew a lot about it. The work of genetic modification continued to include corn and by the late 1990s genetically modified corn as food began to enter the marketplace.

In July of 2003, while commercial fishing on Kachemak Bay, I had what I thought was an appendicitis attack and was hospitalized, but it wasn’t appendicitis. In summary, I went through a lot of testing and was released from the hospital to find answers on my own. I have Crohn’s Disease-like symptoms but it isn’t Crohn’s.

In desperation I began experimenting with food and soon discovered I’m very allergic to corn sweetener. My small intestine was still so tender from being inflamed that I was very sensitive to culprit foods. It was no wonder I had a breakdown in health during commercial fishing because so much of the boat food I’d bought contained corn sweetener. Though I’d had a consistently increasing problem with abdominal pain for several years before, I’d consumed an unusually high level of corn sweetener during commercial fishing to the point where my small intestine swelled completely shut. It was very painful.

In the years following I’ve experimented with other foods to isolate more intolerances but the process has been slow and somewhat elusive. It’s been challenging and limiting for sure but there’s some good that has come out of it including an increased awareness of what I’m eating. I started gardening. I started paying attention to food labels. I eat as much “organic” labeled food as I can get. I eat even more wild salmon then before. In short, I had to learn to adjust not only to have a better quality of life but also to survive.

On many occasions I’ve wondered if my food allergies have been associated with food containing genetically modified grains since I had a breakdown of health only several years after they were first introduced for sale. I’ve avoided them as much as I can, but, still, who knows? I’m not sure anyone would be able to discern it, and that’s the problem. That’s exactly the problem. We don’t know.

There’s too much we don’t understand about this issue and efforts to push for approval of it has not allowed for adequate evaluation. For more information, you can go on the Internet, type in “Frankenfish” to find articles addressing failures in the system that have led to this controversy.

I hope I’ve done well to help you understand why I’m very concerned with this present effort by the FDA to approve genetically modified salmon for sale to the public. If you’d like to comment please do so by April 26 (this coming Friday night). You can comment on several sites including;D=FDA-2011-N-0899, then select site, “Docket supporting &related, then “Draft Environmental Assessment” will come up. Wait until “Primary Documents” comes up and comment on “Draft Environmental Assessments…Due April 26, 2013.” Hit “comment,” type in name and “none” if not connected to an organization, choose “individual consumer,” if not an industry representative. You will receive a comment number when accepted.

Leonard Miller